Friday, September 18, 2015

Asking the Wrong Questions about Suicide

Why didn't they reach out?
Why didn't they say they felt that way?
Didn't they have anyone to talk to?
Why did they do it?

Worse, “How did they do it?” “Did they leave a note?” and the biggest punch to the gut question that people ask after a suicide, “Were they depressed?" (meaning: How did you miss the clues?)

Depression is an intensely private struggle, and suicide takes it public. When someone ends their life, every question in the world is brought roaringly out into the open and what we need to do instead, is reverse the things we ask and with that same energy, work the things we must do.
Tragically, I have had more than one suicide in my family. People have asked me at the funeral, "How did they do it?" A question like that is only selfish curiosity, asked of people already shattered. It helps nothing. The only thing that needs to be known is that depression drains. When someone is caught in its dark howl of a grip, they can't explain the pain of even taking in one more breath. Depression leaves a person worn, exhausted, fragile, and unable to will themselves back into the world.

If we could promise to change our reaction to a life lost to suicide into a focus of learning more about prevention, causes, and resources available, we could stop saying things that help no one and instead, begin to conquer with education, awareness, and prevention.

-We need to talk about suicide and its causes.
-We need to listen to people when they tell us they are feeling like they can't take the weight of life anymore.
-We need to be there and help them find the resources they need.

Teach them, teach others, learn for ourselves. Explain how we care and how we know help exists. There is hope and possibility for finding a way out of the pitch that surrounds them. Depression isolates at a time when you already feel alone and different from the happy faces around you. Talking to someone, a phone call, a text, provides the bridge of human connection that reminds us that we are alive.
It's dangerous to stay within yourself too much, but that is exactly what depression tells you to do. It fills your head with directions to begin to remove yourself from life. To slowly start to make yourself disappear. That's why we need other people. Other people are not just people you know, but those in the form of a crisis line, a suicide line, a hospital.

Do not leave yourself alone if you feel depression seeping in. Depression is an opportunistic disease and takes hold in any empty space. Make a call, go outside, don't allow the thoughts to take root. Contact a mental health center and take the serious action that a serious illness requires. When you are alone, you are vulnerable. Being alone when you're depressed is dropping a match on a pile of gasoline soaked rags just waiting to be lit.

No one wants to die. They only want a way out of the pain that keeps them from living life the way they see others do. It's hard to hold on, but we need to remind people to do just that -- hold on. Relief from the pain and learning how to survive depression are possible.

I don't believe that people who take their lives see it as an answer. I believe they see it as relief from anguish, engulfing sadness, loneliness, fear, from everything being all too much to fit in a head. The desperation to feel better is screaming so loud, there is no chance for anything else to be heard. But we can be there to remind someone there is a beautiful, meaningful life to live, in a world that needs them, and that as much as this inescapable blackness feels, it won't last forever.
They won't see it if they don't stay alive. Professional counselors and physicians, medication, therapy, support, can help them find the light to the path back. I know some people say that it doesn't matter what we do, that when the decision for suicide takes hold there's no shaking it loose--but who are we if we don't even try?

Life will never be easy, perfect, without disappointment, pain, loss and struggle. But we can help someone keep afloat when the slap of the tidal wave is above them. 

Depression lies, tricks, and fools us.
It tells us we're alone, when we're not.
It says that things will never change, that our thoughts are too dark to disclose, that no one else feels this way. 
It fills our head, saying we'll never be happy, without giving us a chance to see.
It roars so loud we are deaf to the other 75 beautiful notes in this world by playing us only one.
It twists into our psyche telling us this one dark moment will last forever.

Let's stop asking why, how, where, who, when it comes to suicide and instead work to stop the private shame of depression. Begin by asking how to help, where to learn, where to go, and how to begin recovery.

Remove the shame of being depressed.

Encourage dialogue.

Donate to mental health research.

Learn about suicide prevention and treatment.

Volunteer at a suicide crisis line.

Become a mental health advocate.

Know these numbers, and share them every chance you get:

If you are in crisis, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) National Suicide Prevention LifeLine

Find local suicide prevention chapters here .

Learn more about how you can help at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

Check in with your people and don't be afraid to ask them how they are. And when they tell you, really listen. If you hear or feel something, anything about their answer, ask them again, and this time, ask them to tell you the truth.

Then, let's remind them that there is light up ahead, and a reason to stay.

* * *


  1. Replies
    1. The questions that never help are pointless, Diary. We need to work to accept depression as an illness, and then to find ways to help.

  2. Replies
    1. Rochelle, "We're all just walking each other home." xo

  3. Replies
    1. Sarah, you and I know so much what a real ailment this is. The world needs to treat it with the same diligence as any other illness cutting people's lives short. Thank you.

  4. ----Truly Excellent, Alexandra.
    People w/ depression are some of the STRONGEST people I know...
    because they go on living and breathing in spite of the darkness, which consumes them.
    They KNOW the light is waiting.
    Thank GOD for the light.
    --Fabulous post. x

    1. Yes, MIC, they try every day, and for so long. We as a society have an obligation to see mental heath as the same as any other body health.

  5. Yes. One hundred times, yes.



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